Pendulums took a big blow with the recent adjusted list that banned Plushfire, banned Damage Juggler, banned Tellarknight Ptolemaeus, limited Luster Pendulum, limited Monkeyboard, and limited Skullcrobat. After taking 29 of the Top 32 spots at YCS Atlanta it seems like these hits might have been necessary, but do they outright cripple the deck? I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Pendulum summoning is a once per turn Soul Charge built into a game mechanic and I’m willing to bet that the best deck will be whichever deck does it the best. Today I’m going to talk about some of the different options Pendulum decks can turn to.
Similar to how Dragon Rulers adjusted to the baby Dragons getting banned, Pendulums will adjust to the severe limitations that were placed on them by the Forbidden and Limited List. Let’s start by looking at some of the reasons that Pendulums may not be as hurt as those limitations initially seem to suggest.
The Clowns were an undoubtedly strong engine, but many duelists were choosing to forgo them even before the ban list in favor of more pure builds of Performapals. This is because they oddly conflicted with various parts of the deck. You couldn’t use Plushfire as a scale with Monkeyboard since it would become a scale four and then when you Pendulum summoned out the Plushfire there would be plenty of times where you couldn’t destroy it, because you needed to clear your scales to not leave yourself exposed to Wavering Eyes. This made Plushfire just another lackluster level four monster to XYZ with that didn’t do anything special a good chunk of the time. It seems as though duelists were gravitating away from the Clowns due to their conflict with Monkeyboard, but does that still apply with Monkeyboard limited? In all likelihood fewer Monkeyboards would mean that the Clowns probably would see more play if they were still legal, but the pre-emptive cuts to them even before the list show that the deck is still quite capable of functioning without the Clowns.
Next, did Luster Pendulum really get limited? It may be technically limited, but in terms of function Luster Pendulum is effectively at four because of Draco Face-Off. Once we have access to the first copy of Luster Pendulum we can continue to access it by Pendulum summoning it back. Rarely would it be necessary to actually use two copies of the card and it was more about seeing the first copy. In that respect, Luster Pendulum basically got limited to four from being at six. This means we’ll definitely be seeing it less often than we were at six, but that’s still one more copy of it than we had when Magicians were dominating prior to the release of BOSH.
Speaking of Magicians, they seem like a great replacement for the new limitations. They were the best deck at Pendulum summoning prior to BOSH and now that the format has almost been reset to before the set it seems like they may shine again. They have an extra Luster Pendulum and may even be able to use some Performapals themselves, which would mean effectively having access to two Skullcrobat (one Skullcrobat and one Monkeyboard). They still have powerful options like Pendulum Call and Wisdom-Eye Magician to ensure that they always have the right scales. Pendulum Call doubles as protection from Wavering Eyes, a role that was previously filled by Damage Juggler.
Another big plus side to Magicians is their ability to push through set cards with Dragonpit Magician. This is particularly useful as Solemn Strike has become quite popular for dealing with Pendulum summons. This works well for making Instant Fusion, a card that was frequently dead with few uses early game before, live at any point in the game. Dragonpit is also especially strong against non-Pendulum decks as he allows you to clear potential threats before Pendulum summoning.
Dragonpulse Magician’s destruction effect is even more relevant than it was last time Magicians were commonly played, because of cards like Traptrix Rafflesia and Evilswarm Nightmare’s presence in the meta. With no easy access to Cyber Dragon Infinity to negate it, Dragonpulse will allow you to take out monster threats and safely Pendulum summon.
The limitation of Skullcrobat Joker means we have a little more freedom with our normal summons. Typically we want to stick to about three normal summons per deck. When we start to add additional normal summons we start to see them too often and in multiples. Even if we include a Performapal engine in our new Pendulum deck, we still enjoy more freedom with these spots. Previously Skullcrobat would automatically fill this role for all three spots as it was the default best, but now we have a couple of other spaces to fill.
It’s important to note that while this seems like a bad thing, it’s really not. It’s easy to think it is worse for those spots vacant because we are now forced into running subpar alternatives compared as opposed to just being able to run better cards (Skullcrobat Jokers), but that’s comparing apples to oranges. We aren’t comparing running three Skullcrobat Joker to one Skullcrobat Joker. If we were, obviously three would be superior. But now that it’s limited and everybody is running one Skullcrobat Joker, we ought to be comparing our normal summons against their normal summons and our opponent can only run one Skullcrobat Joker as well. This is good because it allows for innovation. Previously these three spots were automatic and standardized across all lists regardless of build. Now only one of the three spots is standardized and we have about two more normal summons we can play. If we can figure out what the best cards are to fill these roles before our opponents can, then we will have an advantage over the competition as we face off against opponents that are running potentially inferior choices.
Change is good independent of context. By taking away the standard option, players are forced to innovate. The first person to figure out what works best is going to have a huge advantage over the competition, as it means having the best deck in the room of any tournament you walk into. I’m a big fan of frequent changes, as deckbuilding is my favorite part of the game and changes in the card pool mean an undefined meta with huge potential for innovation. I think some form of Pendulums will still be the best deck, but there’s still plenty of innovating left to be done to see how that unfolds in the months ahead. Until next time, play hard or go home!